Build a better mousetrap…. Business First? Or Laws First?

Two items landed in my news feeds this week, reminding me of that old business slogan, “Build a better mousetrap …. and the people will come.”

n-CHOBANI-GAY-PRIDE-large570The first was from the Huffington Post about Chobani yogurt, an official sponsor of Team USA at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. As it happens,  thousands of cups of Chobani yogurt are waiting to be shipped to Sochi to feed American athletes, but the Russians have been refusing to allow the shipment because of an ongoing dairy products spat with the United States.

Even so, that didn’t stop Chobani from taking a powerful stand last week against Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, joining AT&T in its equally powerful public opposition. 

Last week Chobani tweeted an image of rainbow-colored yogurt cups with the tagline “Naturally Powering Everyone.” And Chobani’s CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya,told the Associated Press on Feb. 5 that “We

are against all laws and practices that discriminate in any way, whether it be where you come from or who you love — for that reason, we oppose Russia’s anti-LGBT law.”

The second item had nothing to do directly with LGBT issues. It was about 30 large corporations — including WalMart, Nike, and the Marks & Spencer group — joining with several other large brands such as H&M, The Gap, and Adidas to ask the Cambodian government to investigate the recent use of force against garment workers and expressing concern about new freedom of speech restrictions. 

This reminded me that often the path toward new civil rights laws and appropriate enforcement of existing laws winds as much through the business world as through the legislative one. Certainly, that was true in the case of my own region, Seattle and Washington state — where documentation about LGBT discrimination also has had to be paired with the idea that diversity and equality makes for good business. (See my introduction to the new paperback edition of Gay Seattle for a discussion of this corporate strategy,  as well as Chapter 15 in Gay Seattle about “Creating Marketplaces and Parades”).

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